The album cover is an icon of the past, of an age when vinyl was something to be collected. The 12 x 12 inch surface was a canvas ripe for exploration, the square format offering infinite interpretations. The album cover, such as it was, provided a space for the artist to put us in the mood, to seduce us with images, words, ideas. It offered a space for contemplation, as the record spun round, creating a delicious interplay between audio and visual experience of the work. As a result, album covers, in certain cases, have become icons themselves.
ndy Warhol designed his first record cover in 1949; clearly he sensed the value of the medium, for he launched his career phoning record companies and soliciting them. Over the years, until his death in 1987, he created more than fifty covers which are presented beautifully in Andy Warhol: The Complete Commissioned Record Covers 1949-1987, Catalogue Raisonné, 2nd Edition by Paul Maréchal (Prestel). Produced at nearly actual size, with photographs of the original works, along with entries detailing the story of each album, this catalogue is a compendium of sumptuous delight.
Warhol’s gift for blurring the lines between high and low art and be felt in each and every illustration he created. His best known works, the covers of The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967) and the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers (1971), appear alongside lesser known works such as Monk featuring Thelonious Monk with Sonny Rollins and Frank Foster (1954) Giant Size $1.57 Each, released in conjunction with the exhibition The Popular Image at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art (1963). Taken together as a group, we can follow the thread of Warhol’s transformation from illustrator to artist, his visual vocabulary becoming more exact and extreme as his ideas take hold.
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